A brand story is your company’s backstory and explains your big WHY. The reason you started on the quest you did and what drives you to do better everyday.
Crafting a compelling brand story will help your ideal client identify with you and feel aligned with your beliefs and values. It is the mirror to your hero's story. Together, they show you! care. Make you memorable. And ultimately, build the connection needed to start a conversation.
The world as it is today. What your ideal client has to suffer to achieve his/her goals. Why it is so deeply dissatisfying and the impact that it has on their lives
You set off on a journey to change the world. To conquer the demons that your ideal client has to suffer. Your vision of the future. Life as it will be when you succeed
Check out the following story. Does it resonate with you?
A girl wearing a red-hooded cloak is strolling through the woods to give her sick grandma some much-needed food and TLC. She passes by a wolf on the way. They exchange a slightly awkward soft smile-nod combination that random colleagues usually greet each other with as they pass in the hallway.
She makes it to her grandma’s house without a scratch. They eat lunch and play a game of Clue together. Grandma wins by deducing that Colonel Mustard killed Mr. Boddy in the Billiard Room with the candlestick -- what a shocker! The End.
So ... what’d you think?
Did this story keep you on the edge of your seat?
Or does it feel … off?
For some reason, it doesn’t work, right?
That’s because there’s no conflict.
Despite the intense game of Clue at the end, there’s nothing at stake.
There’s no tension.
The wolf didn’t try to eat the girl.
He didn’t even go to Grandma’s house.
He barely acknowledged Little Red Riding Hood.
At their core, stories are about overcoming adversity. So if there’s no conflict presented, there’s no drama or emotional journey that people can relate to. And if your story has no drama or emotional journey, it won’t hold anyone’s attention -- let alone resonate with and inspire them.
Unfortunately, in the business world, brands are horrified to reveal any adversity or conflict they’ve faced.
They believe that spinning a rosy, blemish-free story about how their company only experiences hockey stick growth will convince people that they’re the industry’s best-in-class solution.
Any adversity or conflict during their company’s history will expose their imperfections, deterring potential customers from buying their product.
But, in reality, this is a huge misconception.
Everything, including companies (especially companies), has flaws. Plus, people don’t relate to perfection. They relate to the emotional journey of experiencing adversity, struggling through it, and, ultimately, overcoming it. Because, in a nutshell, that’s the story of life.
Conflict is key to telling compelling stories. So be transparent about the adversity your company has faced, and own it. The more honest you are about your shortcomings, the more people will respect you and relate to your brand.
Why is the goal important? what does success look like? What does failure mean?
The pay off is how you solved the problem and when you realised you did
How the pay off aligns with your values
Don't forget to illustrate your story by giving examples
The best thing you can do is show measurable results. Think about the 'before' and 'after. The ways you impacted your clients and their businesses for the better...
It’s as simple as that.
If you need an example to crystalize brand story structure in your mind, let’s take a look at the actual Little Red Riding Hood story...
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a village near the forest. Whenever she went out, the little girl wore a red riding cloak, so everyone in the village called her Little Red Riding Hood.
One morning, Little Red Riding Hood asked her mother if she could go to visit her grandmother as it had been awhile since they'd seen each other.
"That's a good idea," her mother said. So they packed a nice basket for Little Red Riding Hood to take to her grandmother.
When the basket was ready, the little girl put on her red cloak and kissed her mother goodbye.
A Big Bad Wolf approaches her, and asks where she’s going. She naively tells him where her grandmother’s house is, so he suggests she picks some flowers as a present for her.
While she’s distracted, he breaks into Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother's house, eats her, and puts on her clothes to impersonate her.
When Little Red Riding Hood gets to her grandmother’s house, she notices some subtle changes in her grandmother appearance but ultimately ignores them and hops into bed with her. The wolf swallows her whole. He falls asleep from a massive food coma.
A few minutes later, Red Riding Hood knocked on the door. The wolf jumped into bed and pulled the covers over his nose. "Who is it?" he called in a cackly voice.
"It's me, Little Red Riding Hood."
"Oh how lovely! Do come in, my dear," croaked the wolf.
When Little Red Riding Hood entered the little cottage, she could scarcely recognize her Grandmother.
"Grandmother! Your voice sounds so odd. Is something the matter?" she asked.
"Oh, I just have touch of a cold," squeaked the wolf adding a cough at the end to prove the point.
"But Grandmother! What big ears you have," said Little Red Riding Hood as she edged closer to the bed.
"The better to hear you with, my dear," replied the wolf.
"But Grandmother! What big eyes you have," said Little Red Riding Hood.
"The better to see you with, my dear," replied the wolf.
"But Grandmother! What big teeth you have," said Little Red Riding Hood her voice quivering slightly.
"The better to eat you with, my dear," roared the wolf and he leapt out of the bed and began to chase the little girl.
Almost too late, Little Red Riding Hood realised that the person in the bed was not her Grandmother, but a hungry wolf.
She ran across the room and through the door, shouting, "Help! Wolf!" as loudly as she could.
A woodsman who was chopping logs nearby heard her cry and ran towards the cottage as fast as he could.
He grabbed the wolf and made him spit out the poor Grandmother who was a bit frazzled by the whole experience, but still in one piece."Oh Grandma, I was so scared!" sobbed Little Red Riding Hood, "I'll never speak to strangers or dawdle in the forest again."
"There, there, child. You've learned an important lesson. Thank goodness you shouted loud enough for this kind woodsman to hear you!"
The woodsman knocked out the wolf and carried him deep into the forest where he wouldn't bother people any longer.
Little Red Riding Hood and her Grandmother had a nice lunch and a long chat.
Wouldn’t you say that was a little more compelling and entertaining than finding out Colonel Mustard can wield a candlestick as a murder weapon?
I would, too.
The thing is, some small brands are leveraging this same exact story structure to generate massive amounts of brand awareness and affinity.
#Tell your brand’s real story, not it’s highlight reel
Whether you’re publishing your brand story on your website or using it to inform your overall mission, make sure it’s fact, not fiction. Spitting out a highlight reel, like almost every other brand does, won’t actually resonate with people.
Instead, it's crucial you tell the honest truth about the adversity your company has faced, and how you’re working to overcome it. Because what people relate to and get inspired by isn’t endless success...
It’s the rocky road you travelled when chasing your dream, getting knocked down, and, ultimately, finding a path toward success.
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Rory Ramsden is a retiree living in south west France. A lifelong entrepreneur and traveller, he loves to cook and challenge his boundaries by helping others grow their businesses online.